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Dinosaurs: Stories in Stone

Since I was old enough to have small toys I wouldn’t eat, I’ve loved dinosaurs. Before Star Wars, before GI Joe, I had dinosaur toys. In fact, one of the greatest presents I received as a child was this playset:

(Side note: this set is now going for $200 on eBay! Why couldn’t my 5-year-old self take better care of it?)

My earliest source for information and understanding of dinosaurs was this book:

(The height of scientific understanding!)

This book has a copyright of 1959 (but it’s the 1975 edition!), so you know it’s super-modern with all the latest discoveries and stuff! Until I was able to read for myself, I bugged my parents into reading it to me over and over.

But there was one entry in the book that I wanted to hear more often. And once I could read on my own, I always turned to the pages with the entry on Tyrannosaurus rex. Why? Because, unlike the rest of the book that contained detailed (and today laughable) scientific information, the T-rex entry contained a STORY. It wasn’t much of a story, but it featured a battle that captured my imagination: Tyrannosaurus rex versus Triceratops!

(Behold the dynamic dinosaurs!)

Do a Google image search for “tyrannosaurs and triceratops” and you’ll find this titanic struggle illustrated dozens, if not hundreds of times. It’s been done in art, movies, and stories since we first discovered these two iconic creatures. Why? Paleontologists would suggest it’s because t-rex is the apex predator and triceratops represents the ultimate defense, or something like that. But let’s be honest: it’s because it’s cool. Teeth versus horns. Vicious carnivore versus noble herbivore.

All of this to lead up to this weekend, when a friend on Facebook shared this article: World’s first 100% complete T-rex skeleton found locked in battle with a triceratops.

For a dinosaur nerd like me, this is awesome. It really happened! I’m so excited!

For a storyteller like me, this is awesome. This is a story, captured in stone. Monsters once walked our planet, and engaged in mighty combat that shook the earth around them. It spurs the imagination in all sorts of ways.

Dinosaurs were my first monsters. Before dragons or anything else, I imagined stories about dinosaurs.

I’ve always wanted to write about dinosaurs. They show up in almost all of my early attempts at fantasy novels (many of them talking!). I have a long-range plan to bring them into another book series in a few years.

For now, my boyhood imagination is very happy. My adult imagination is just as pleased. Tyrannosaurus versus Triceratops. The battle of epochs.

NaNoWriMo update: I’ve written an average of 1786 words per day for November. I’m almost at 40,000 for the month, right on track to finish 50k. Until All the Gods Return is approaching the halfway mark. Keep track with the widget to the right.

VIRIDIA IS NOW AVAILABLE

Today is LAUNCH DAY for Viridia, the first book in a new series, Dragontek Lore! The ebook is now available on Amazon. The paperback AND hardback versions are available from Barnes & Noble and other sites. (Amazon paperback/hardback versions should be available in a day or two; you can preorder them.)

This series is accessible to all ages, but it’s primarily aimed at teen readers. Much shorter than my other books, fast-paced, lots of action. Give it a try!

For more information, check out the book page. You can read the first four chapters and order it from various outlets.

Why start a new series?

With the upcoming arrival of Viridia, I will have two book series going on simultaneously. Readers might naturally wonder about that. What is wrong with this guy? Does he have no commitment? Will he ever actually finish anything? To explain, I need to get into some details about the reality of being an independent author, as well as some thoughts about the writing process.

First, as an independent author, I have to work extremely hard just to try to get noticed by readers. There is a ton of competition out there, and it’s very easy to be completely overlooked. Because of questions of quality control, editing and so forth, many readers have become very picky about the authors they choose to read. If an author only has one or two books out, they’re more likely to be ignored. But if an author has a lot of books out, it gives readers the idea that if they give this author a chance with one book, they’ll gain a lot of reading enjoyment. As such, many independent authors work hard to get a large number of books published as rapidly as they can.

Viridia was already written several years ago. I had to do some rewriting, editing, and proofing, but the primary work was already done. Getting it together after the publication of Until All Bonds Are Broken wasn’t that big a deal. And by doing so, I get a third book out faster and start to look more like a serious author.

Viridia also may serve to expand my audience. It’s a very different type of book. Whereas the Heart of Fire series is epic fantasy on a large scale, Viridia (and its eventual sequels, the Dragontek Lore series) is fast-paced young adult science fantasy. Many readers will be able to enjoy both, but some will only enjoy one or the other.

Second, it’s hard work to write epic fantasy. My brain needs a break from it every so often. Viridia‘s style is much easier to write (but not simplistic!). This both gives my brain a rest from one type of work, and stretches it in a different direction, improving my overall skill.

So the plan going forward is to alternate books in each series as I continue both. I’m writing the third Heart of Fire book now, Until All the Gods Return. When it’s complete, and while I’m editing/proofing it, I’ll start in on the sequel to Viridia (currently titled Incarnadine). Once that’s done, I’ll shift back to the final Heart of Fire book. After the third Dragontek Lore book… we’ll see. I have many, many book ideas. I hope you stick around to see them!

COVER REVEAL & Pre-orders!

Viridia awaits… but not for long! Coming October 7! Pre-orders are NOW AVAILABLE. (Cover artist: Austin DeGroot)

When Beryl uses his cybernetic implant to help a mysterious refugee escape the police, he finds himself leading a revolution.

Fueled by hatred of Viridia, the green dragon, and hunted by the draconic head of the police, Beryl and his friends conceive an audacious plan:

Kill all six of the immortal dragons who have ruled over humanity for a thousand years.

But killing even one dragon is impossible. Even if they succeed, thousands could die in retribution. 

Will Beryl’s hatred and rage be enough to overcome the odds? Or will it take something more?

Pre-order link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08K8G7KV6

Chapter Three of Viridia now available

You know the drill by now. Chapter Three is up and ready for you!

Beryl is taken to meet Troilus Green… who is not a nice person at all. (But possibly my favorite antagonist I’ve created.)

Viridia, book one in the Dragontek Lore series, releases October 7. Come back on Monday for the cover reveal!

Read Chapter Two of Viridia!

Viridia, book one of the Dragontek Lore series, launches October 7. You can now read chapter two right here. Beryl’s refugee friend explains himself, but may not be doing as well as he looked.

If you missed chapter one, read it first!

As always, the mailing list gets this stuff first. Later this week, they’ll get chapter three AND the first look at the cover! What are you waiting for? Join the list!

Chapter One of Viridia now available!

Viridia, the first book of the Dragontek Lore series, will be launching October 7, 2020! And you can read the very first chapter right here now.

When Beryl uses his cybernetic implant to help a mysterious refugee escape the police, he finds himself leading a revolution.

Fueled by hatred of Viridia, the green dragon, and hunted by the draconic head of the police, Beryl and his friends conceive an audacious plan:

Kill all six of the immortal dragons who have ruled over humanity for a thousand years.

But killing even one dragon is impossible. Even if they succeed, thousands could die in retribution. 

Will Beryl’s hatred and rage be enough to overcome the odds? Or will it take something more?

Podcast Interview

A little while ago, I was interviewed for the High Fantasy Podcast. That interview is now live on YouTube!

Check it out and hear what we have to say about Peter Jackson’s biggest mistake, why Marshal (in the Heart of Fire series) couldn’t communicate, and the purpose of fantasy stories.

Writing & Re-writing

The last few days, I have been living in the past. And the future. And another world.

I’ve mentioned that I started the work of re-writing/editing my earlier novel, Viridia. I struggled with it for a while, wondering if it was even worth bothering over. But I knew that I needed to get more books out, beyond the Heart of Fire series. Working on this one would give me the chance to do that faster.

So I enlisted some help from my friends in the Apex Writers Group. All of the responses I got were very positive and encouraging. This story could work. They even helped me overcome one of the difficulties I had with the opening chapters.

I got excited. I started making serious progress. You can see from the bar on the right how far along I’ve come in recent days. I’ve been re-reading and re-writing this story I wrote several years ago. Sometimes, I have to ask, “Wow. Did I write this?” Other times, I have to ask, “Ugh. Did I write that?”

Tonight, I even pulled up the outline and opening pages I had written for the sequel. Wow, this is some crazy stuff. And it just might work. 

Dragons. Cybernetics. Swords. Trains. Magic? It all fits in here. And it’s all coming together.

What does this mean for the Heart of Fire series? Nothing, really. I’m still working on the opening chapters of book three. It is going a little slower than I’d like, because my creative energies are split. But I try to divide my time between the two books, so neither is neglected. If I am motivated enough, I can get this done.

How do you pronounce Ixchel?

Out of all the names of characters and places in my books, this is the one people ask me about the most. Ixchel is a great character to write, and I’m looking forward to seeing how her story continues. But how do you say her name?

The answer is… not as easy as it seems.

You can literally google “how do you pronounce ixchel” and you’ll get multiple answers.

This video, for example, pronounces it the way it’s spelled in English:

But this video pronounces it more like “ee-shell”:

Ixchel is a Mayan name. The culture of her land and people in my books is loosely based on the ancient Maya. So logically, the best guide to it would be an explanation of how the Mayans pronounced it, right?

Here’s one:

http://www.native-languages.org/maya_guide.htm

If you read that, you’ll find that “ee-shell” is close, but… it actually ends up something more like “eesh-chail” including the “ch” sound and pronouncing the “e” as a long “a.”

So which one is right?

It’s a fantasy novel, with names and cultures that I created. I’m sort of the final arbiter here. Except… it may come to a huge surprise to readers that I don’t always pronounce the names in my head while writing them. And since I was raised on American phonics, when I do pronounce names from other languages, I often do it completely wrong.

I like “ee-shell.” And “eesh-chail” is a bit too cumbersome for my tongue. But you know what? You can pronounce it however you choose. I won’t mind. 

But I’d better start getting it right myself. She scares me.

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